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Wednesday, Nov 1, 2006County: Cumberland
Case Images: 1 files available
Alleged: Andrew Lopez
A motorist on Nov 1 deliberately ran down a flock of sea gulls that had gathered on a Cumberland Mall parking lot, eyewitnesses said.
aThe motorist fled the scene. But police, supplied with his license plate number by a witness, said they caught up to him when he got into a traffic accident later in Millville.
Vineland police arrested Millville resident Andrew Lopez, 18, of Hance Bridge Road on the night of Nov 1, according to Lt. Dennis D'Augostine
Lopez was charged with animal cruelty by the Cumberland County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said D'Augostine. He was released on summonses after police cited him for allegedly leaving the scene of an accident and reckless driving.
Lopez will also be charged by the state Division of Fish and Wildlife with killing "a nongame regulated species," police said.
At the mall, eyewitnesses said the driver of a white Nissan sedan drove directly into the birds about 2:30 p.m.
The result was 150-foot swath of slaughter and suffering that left seven gulls dead and four critically injured.
"We heard boom, boom, boom, boom," said 16-year-old eyewitness Letisha Santiago of Vineland, describing the sound of the impact as the car struck the birds.
The incident turned the parking lot, between the mall and Best Buy, into a crime scene. Animal control officers from Vineland and Millville, city police, and investigators from the SPCA and Division of Fish and Wildlife surveyed the carnage.
Dead birds with broken necks and smashed wings rested on the asphalt, which was scarred by skid marks left when the driver tried to brake before striking the curb along Hennis Road.
SPCA investigators welcomed the help of horrified eyewitnesses who were parked in front of Value City when the incident unfolded.
The collision appeared to be deliberate, Santiago said.
"The first dead bird is over there, and the last dead bird is over there," she said, detailing the arc of the attack.
When the driver hit the curb, Santiago said, the car's tires blew out.
Witnesses said the driver got out and checked his car, but did not show any concern for the dead or injured birds.
He appeared to be alone, they said.
"He's a coldhearted animal killer," Santiago said.
Catherine Hitchner saw the attack, and her instincts kicked in.
The 18-year-old Rosenhayn woman, who said she plans a career in law enforcement, tailed the driver in her car as he fled down Hennis Road, turning south on Delsea Drive and heading toward Millville.
Hitchner was able to get close enough to jot down the license plate number before returning to the crime scene and alerting police.
SPCA investigator Kelly Serbeck said she couldn't understand why someone would deliberately kill the birds.
"People need to find something to do," she said.
Many people consider sea gulls a nuisance, Serbeck said, noting the best way to discourage them from taking up residence in the parking lot is not to feed them. "They will go elsewhere," she explained.
Three injured gulls were collected at the scene. If they cannot be rehabilitated, they will be euthanized, according to Diane Starn, Vineland's animal control officer.
One injured bird eluded animal control officers and had not been found by Wednesday night.
Officials said the maximum penalty for killing the sea gulls could be a $10,000 fine and two years in prison.
- The Daily Journal - Nov 2, 2006
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